During a get together last night someone posed the question all writers dread. “How much money have you made?” This will throw the unseasoned off, and result in everything from excuses to outright anger, but I’ve been doing this a long time, and said, “Not a cent.” I’m not a real writer, I’m more of an accidental tourist. My entire writing career has been backing into a corner, and writing my way out. My patent advice to beginners is if you are writing for money stop, and sell snow cones. You’ll make more.
You must write because you enjoy it. If the dollar signs are before your eyes composition becomes laborious, and that will work its way into your material. For me writing an article is like painting a picture. You do the whole thing, and then go back putting a dab here, a dab there, until you get what you want. The whole picture must fit. When I dream up a subject I pretty much have the entire concept in my head, and the resulting article is the summation thereof.
You have to learn the craft. I wrote music for years, and finally got that down to where I could churn out a fairly good song, but I’ve only been in political satire for about two years. I’m still in training. That, and I have a high school education from Killeen, Texas, and that’s just about as illiterate as you can get and they still let you drive a car. I know absolutely nothing about composition, subject-verb agreement, proper English, or adjectives. What I do know is how to turn a phrase, use sixty-four years of common sense, and poke fun at liberals who don’t know what sex they are.
You all know the famous writers, King, Hemmingway, and Grisham. Those are rare. If you are going to be a successful writer, i.e. write every day and get read you have to be successful in your own right. Mine was real estate. By dumb luck I formed a company with my wife and sold a boat load of real estate. In the process I became versed in real estate law, and brothers and sisters, I ain’t kidding. I have sat before the Texas Real Estate Commission, representing brokers twelve times and schooled them! The only time I ever lost was when we used a lawyer (Ted Smith) and his brilliance cost me forty-six thousand dollars. The fact is, if you are going to write you must experience life else you have nothing to write about. In Nashville all beginning songwriters go on endlessly about “paying dues,” and the life of a songwriter. I just wrote songs about loose women and bad whiskey because I knew all about that, and couldn’t find the Grand Ol’ Opry with a GPS!
All my stuff is original, right off the top of my head. I write “off the cuff,” and call myself “A Simple Ol’ Boy From Austin.” That way, if I foul up I can always say, “Hey, I TOLD you I was stupid!” Like I said, I was a song writer, adult country humor to be exact. Although I’d written three books I didn’t consider myself to be much of a prose writer. I put one or two little comments up on Doc Greene’s chat room. I’d always had several Facebook pages, but never developed them. As you may have seen yesterday I have divorced Facebook, but, just like a real divorce, she keeps coming around, so we’ll see how that goes. Facebook is worthless to me, but I want to bring my reader base over to more productive formats. Anyway, I kept making comments on Doc’s chat room and little by little I began to expand the comments to articles and put them up on various pages and groups.
A friend of mine suggested I do a blog. I’ve always considered a blog to be a poor man’s publishing, but it took little effort so I ran one. Then someone suggested that I string the articles together and do a book, so I did. I published through Amazon, which is another poor man’s effort, but the price is right. I wasn’t particularly happy with the layout, and getting them to accept the cover was an ordeal, but the words were all there. That, and the fact that I wrote the book on an iPhone. Published it from an iPhone too. How cool is THAT? I just love it when someone gets on me about my punctuation, not realizing I write mostly on an iPhone, in the morning, with dirty glasses. Go Figure!
I began to attend political events, and drawing upon what I was writing I actually had something to say. The stats began to pile up and I realized this was working, which was never my intention at all. Bear in mind I was retired after a career in Nashville and Austin. Divorced, I had been living with my son out in California and hanging out near Ocotillo Wells. My ambition was to have Martinis with co-eds and play guitar on the beach. I migrated back to Texas, and ended up taking care of my five grandchildren which my ex had adopted and actually looking after her husband who had been diagnosed with Agent Orange and cancer. He actually subscribed to my blogs and began to discuss Texas politics with me. The man has three bronze stars and a purple heart. When I would tell him I was “thinking” about going to some rally he’d rush out, buy me a new suit of clothes (I’m a desert rat) and insist that I go! They eventually moved up to Salt Lake and left me to care for the two houses back in Texas. (So much for retirement.)
So, I began a routine of putting up an article a day on Raging Elephants and various groups writing blogs and sitting on the porch composing on my iPhone, none of which I took very seriously. I made the style simple so the average reader could understand. I would take an issue, step back, look at it, and ask, “What’s REALLY going on here?” Originally I made it salty. Since I was a song writer I made the articles “go ’round in ‘circles.” I used key phrases like, “Swat them bees,” and “Save your fork,” to alert the reader. I read a lot, but I don’t do research per sae outside of checking the correct spelling of someone’s name. After I wrote something I read it out loud. This is an old songwriter’s trick. The article must go around in circles. The human mind looks for conclusion. You start, explain, and end up right back where you started. Hammer that nail! The reason for reading out loud is to make the prose smooth. Forget everything some college English teacher ever told you. If they knew anything about writing they’d be in the New York Times list and not teaching in some Po-Dunk junior college out in Coryell County, Texas! I regularly use “don’t” for “doesn’t,” double negatives, and I’m real fond of the word, “ain’t,” because that’s what Bubba sitting in his F-150 with his copy of the Dam Good Times understands!
I learn by listening to people who obviously have more comprehension than I, and for the most part they have been very supportive. I never argue, and most of the time I’m not rude, unless you count putting up “Leatherface,” and making a racial slur, yeah, I done that. I’m very aware that I’m a beginner with absolutely NO training. I’d end up on a radio show with some guy who had more degrees than a thermometer, and I didn’t have the background to debate a brisket recipe, much less black history (I’m from Texas, so I simply must be a racist, right?) ! About the worse I’ve ever done is to ask a professor on Michael Bee’s show, who was expounding his theory of the black tribes in Africa civilizing Egypt and the western world, why I couldn’t find any great pyramids in the Congo. (He told me the Illuminati had “cloaked” them!) Being an adult humorist I originally used very salty language, but began to pull back as I realized people were actually READING my stuff!
My first book on this subject, “A Simple Ol’ Boy From Austin” was so so, but I’m now putting together a second book, “I Crappith Thee NOT,” in which I will zero in more on style, and content. I don’t expect to hit the best seller list. I am retired and between me, and my husband in law we have three homes. The old sarge was hanging on for dear life because he wanted to get a place out in SoCal and have me to take him sand railing across the Mojave Desert before he died. He always told me, “The best is yet to come.” Maybe he knew something I didn’t.
The way I look at it I will never get an honorable mention in the New York Times, but hey . . .I live in Texas! You can buy a lot of beer with 50,000 sales! I am always grateful for people who put up with me, and I learn from greater minds than my own. Simple Ol’ Boy From Austin is the personification of a philosophy. If you are going to write you must divorce ego. I am really simple, as are most people. I have no remote idea how many people read my stuff. I know my one reader, my mother no longer does because she’s dead. I have never in my life ran into someone at the supermarket that ever read anything I ever wrote. Pump up your ego and you’ll get your feeling hurt quick!
Once, when I attended a meeting where I spoke, when I emerged someone was asking me all kinds of questions about my opinions about this and that, and using words I didn’t understand. I told her, “Well, I don’t know nothing about all of that, but they sure got some good samiches in there.” Guess she didn’t like the cuisine, because she left.